The Universe of Discourse
Thu, 05 May 2011

Adventures in systems administration

Our upstairs toilet has been repeatedly clogged. Applying the plunger would fix it, but never for more than a day. So on the way to work I went to the hardware store and bought a toilet snake.

The toilet snake costs ten dollars. It is a three-foot long steel spring with a pointy corkscrew on the end. You work it down the toilet pipe while twisting it. It either breaks up the blockage, pokes the blockage far enough down the pipe that it can be flushed away, or else the corkscrew tangles in the blockage and you can pull it out. Professional plumbers use a much larger, motorized version to unclog sewer pipes.

People on the train stare at you if you are carrying around a toilet snake, I learned.

When I got home from work I snaked the toilet, and lo and behold, it disgorged a plastic comb. Mission accomplished, most likely.

Later on, Toph, who is three now and fascinated with all things poop, asked me for the umpteenth time why the toilet was clogged. This time I had an answer. "It clogged because someone flushed a comb down it. Do you have any idea who might have done that?"

Toph considered. "I don't know..." she said, thoughtfully. Then her face brightened. "Maybe Katara did it!"

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